New immunization requirements take effect July 1

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Grade school children must get additional vaccines

By Lindsay Kriz

Summer intern

Before the kids head back to school, they may need to make a trip to their doctor.

According to The Associated Press, new immunization requirements for grade school children take effect July 1. Kentucky's Department for Public Health decided to update the regulations after a recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

With the new regulations in place, children up to five years old are to receive a pneumococcal vaccination before entry into school. Children entering sixth grade should receive meningococcal, varicella and tetanus-diphtheria-acellular pertussis vaccines. Children should have the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine by the time they are six, The Associated Press reports.

According to Dr. Diane Thomas of Lebanon Pediatrics, most of the vaccines are not costly, and financial assistance is available. Dr. Thomas recommended Vaccines for Children as one of the programs that could provide financial support.

Thomas said that many of the aforementioned diseases can be potentially deadly, but vaccines obviously decrease the risk of contracting those diseases.

"These vaccinations have been in place for a long time," she said.

Many of the pediatric centers in the area, including Lebanon Pediatrics, will potentially carry the new vaccines.

Stephanie Goff, director of compliance and school health services for Lincoln Trail District Health Department, said that all the immunization shots required by the new regulations can be given during the same doctor's visit unless a child hasn't had two doses of the varicella vaccine, in which case the child will need to take the two doses during separate visits at least one month apart.

If a child has not had the chicken pox they must have these vaccinations or they will not be allowed into the school, Goff said.

"The older a child is with chicken pox, the more severe the case, and the more chance of complications," she said.

Any child entering the sixth grade should only get these shots if they are at least 11 years old.

The pneumococcal vaccine is only needed for children up to five years of age, and any child older than five doesn't need the vaccine unless a doctor recommends it to an immunocompromised patient. 

Goff said that if any parents want to waive any of the vaccines or their child has already had the required vaccines, they must bring documentation from their doctor to the school.

According to Goff, all of the diseases that new vaccines cover are all communicable, and are usually spread through contact of mucous or shared airspace.

"We rely on vaccines so kids stay healthy," she said. "We don't want (the spread of diseases) to happen in school. It's such a large group."

Goff said that all the required vaccines are administered by needle and that there is a small risk that a child could have an adverse reaction to the vaccine. But she said that the benefits outweigh the risks, citing that it's rare to see a person diagnosed with polio, measles or mumps today.

"We always have parents who are afraid," she said. "We give everyone the facts so they can make their decision. But if I didn't believe in (vaccines), I wouldn't do them. With vaccines we'll see less deadly diseases occur." 

Mickie Lee, a registered nurse for Marion County schools, said the schools have to look at immunization records carefully. According to Lee, schools have a computer system that holds the immunization records for each student, and a student's name is flagged if their information isn't up-to-date.

Lee also recommends that students entering the sixth grade should complete a physical during the same visit as their immunizations. Students also needing a sports physical are recommended to have it done during the same visit as well, as insurance companies are more likely to cover both physicals in one visit.

The school administrations would like for students to mail their immunization records or turn them in during open house.

St. Charles' open house is July 18 and Lebanon Middle School's open house is July 26.

If students do not mail or bring in their immunization records during open house, they have 30 days from the first day of school to bring them or they're put out of school, Lee said.